SCARBOROUGH - Robert Newell Knight, 30-year veteran of the United States Navy, teacher to a generation of third graders, co-founder of the Camden Civic Theater, husband of 53 years, father of three, grandfather of four, and great-grandfather of two, died on February 26, 2016 at the Maine Veteran's Home in Scarborough at the age of 90.
A self-described "hell raiser with no love for school," Knight left high school in 1942, to join the Navy. He served in World War II in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters, including the Battle of Okinawa. At the war's end, he decided to remain in the Navy, where he completed high school and took additional courses through the University of Wisconsin, acquiring the rank and expertise to become a Naval communications instructor.
While on a three-day leave in New York City in August 1948, he met Marguerite "Margie" Maucere in a coffee shop in Times Square. He convinced her to "take pity on a poor guy in uniform" and go on a date with him. She consented, provided he agreed to meet her mother. With her mother's blessing, they went to see Finian's Rainbow on Broadway. The next day he convinced her to accompany him to city hall where they were married in a civil ceremony. He shipped out the following day, while Margie remained at home to plan their church ceremony, which took place the following December in Brooklyn, NY. They were married for nearly 53 years, until her death in 2001.
Born in Hyannis, Massachusetts on October 30, 1925, he was the second of four children of Robert Edmund Knight and Caroline Kane Knight. Known to his family as "Newell," his early youth was spent in Wingdale, New York, where his father was the caretaker for the Harlem Valley State Hospital. In the 1930s, the family moved to a poultry farm in East Moriches, Long Island.
During his Navy years, Knight left the childhood name of "Newell" behind and from then on was known as Bob Knight. Rising to the rank of Senior Chief, Knight, a radioman, spent time on destroyers, tankers, tenders, and aircraft carriers.
He was a plank-holder on the original U.S.S. Philippine Sea, CV-47, aboard which, he accompanied Admiral Richard Byrd on Operation Highjump, an expedition to Antarctica. Following Antarctica, Knight was stationed in Norfolk, Virginia, where both his sons were born; Kaohsiung, Taiwan, where his daughter was born, and where he served in an intelligence capacity for the Military Advisory and Assistance Group. After Taiwan, Knight was stationed at Lexington Park, Maryland and Brunswick, Maine.
Retiring from active duty in 1962, he joined his family, which was then settled in Camden. Knight and his wife became well known in Camden as active members of the community. Knight was a member of the Camden Lions Club and the Couples Club. For many years he volunteered for the Maine Island Trail Association. He also joined the early theatricals produced by the Camden Women's Club where his wife was a member. His most memorable role was that of the King of Siam in The King and I. In that production, Knight shared the stage with his wife and his younger son, Tom.
The success and fun of the Women's Club productions led the Knights to personally put up the royalties for a new amateur theatre group to produce Guys and Dolls. They called the group The Camden Civic Theatre, and Bob Knight served as its first president. (Ten years later, his wife also served as president).
While raising his family in Camden, Knight made use of the G.I. Bill and worked to finish his college education. He graduated from the University of Maine in 1976 with a degree in elementary education.
He taught third grade at Rockport Elementary School for 16 years, retiring in 1991. A favorite of many students, "Mr. Knight" was known for giving his students hands-on experiences with everything from the glory of dandelions to the hierarchy of honeybees. He often said that he could relate to his third graders because he remembered being bored by school and wishing it could be "more adventure and less torture."
For many years, Knight kept large produce gardens at his Partridge Hill Farm. His summer farm stand served the Megunticook Lake summer colony. For several years running, his produce won multiple blue ribbons at the Union Fair agricultural exhibitions.
As a father, he taught his children to be curious. "What did you learn in school, today?" was a nightly dinnertime ritual, for which detailed answers were expected. He also gave them all traditional skills, ranging from how to field dress game and change a tire to how to putty a window and row a boat. He set the example of lifelong learning. When a subject interested him, he read all he could about it and then set that knowledge into practice. Whether it was horticulture, apiculture, carpentry, foraging, sailing, navigating, recycling, hiking, camping, hunting, or fishing, there was very little that Bob Knight didn't know on the subject.
He also set an example for hard work. Sometimes holding down as many as three jobs?as well as his college course work?Knight supported his family, putting all three children through college. In addition to his Naval career, over the course of his life Knight worked as a farmer, television repairman, well-driller, plumber, electrician, master oil-burnerman, police officer, recreation director, administrative assistant, and elementary school teacher.
As a husband, he gave his wife?born and raised in Brooklyn, New York?what she always dreamed of: a chance to see the world and a life in the country. Once described by their oldest son, Robert, as having "the timing of a finely honed comedy team," Bob and Marge Knight lived a full partnership of love, humor, adventure, and commitment. They were each other's best friend and took turns playing straight man to the other's jester.
After his wife's death, Knight sold the farm at Partridge Hill and for the next 14 years lived in Scarborough, in order to be closer to his children. While living in Scarborough, he served as a volunteer docent at the Portland Harbor Museum in South Portland.
On Veteran's Day in 2013, he moved to the Maine Veterans' Home in Scarborough where he received skilled and compassionate care from the many professionals and volunteers who dedicate themselves to serving Maine's veterans with respect and dignity.
Robert N. Knight is survived by his sister, Janet Lemmen of Fort Myers, Florida; his brother, Douglas Knight of Winter Park, Florida; his son, Robert M. Knight and his partner Liz Bennett of Freeport, Maine; his son, Thomas D. Knight and his wife Sandi Knight, of South Berwick, Maine; his daughter, Felicia K. Knight and her husband Towle Tompkins, of Scarborough, Maine; his grandson, Thomas D. Knight of Los Angeles, California; his granddaughters, Rebecca M. Knight and her husband David Bairstow of Boston, Massachusetts; and Sarah A. Knight and her husband, Judd Harris, of Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic; and his great-granddaughters, Eliza and Emmeline Knight-Bairstow of Boston, Massachusetts.
A funeral service will be held at 11AM, Saturday, March 26, 2016 at the Long Funeral Home, 9 Mountain Street, Camden followed by a reception at High Mountain Hall.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in the name of Robert N. Knight to the Maine Veterans' Home, 290 U.S. Rt. 1, Scarborough, Maine 04074. Condolences may be shared with the family at www.longfuneralhomecamden.com.